PictureBlood Diamond comes to us on Blu-ray with a spectacular High Definition 1080p video presentation, in the movie's original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Detail is phenomenal throughout, whether during the explosive confrontations or the more intimate conversations. From the opening battle to the helicopter air raid towards the end, the war sequences look exceptional, softness never becoming an issue and grain only ever light and intentional depending on the cameras used. Sure, the quality does very, but it never intrudes upon your enjoyment of the movie. The colour scheme is rich and vivid, filled by the luscious greens of the jungle canopy. Skin tones are brought to life, with facial detail exceptional, right down to the beads of sweat that commonly populate the faces. The contrast is spot on, with solid and deep blacks that allow for excellent night time sequences and some truly wonderful sunsets. I have heard slights upon this video presentation, most notably about it being uneven, but I never found any inherent film stock issues being problematic or distracting and it is generally a very good presentation.
SoundTo accompany the great video presentation we also get a resoundingly good PCM English 5.1 track that brings the war-drama to life. Dialogue, from Archer's Africaan to the screaming rants of Solomon, comes across clearly and coherently, mainly emanating from across the frontal array, through the fronts and centre channels. The effects are common-place, again right from the opening gun-battle, with AK-47s raking bullets through innocent villages, to the explosive escape sequences spaced throughout, with rocket launchers, helicopters and blazing mounted guns. In the quieter moments, the jungle comes alive with ambient background life and the surrounds get both small scale and big scale use thanks to the vivid content. The score is emotive without being cheesy, offering up something of a theme that runs throughout the grand-sweeping adventure and often bringing more power to the key sequences. Bass is prevalent, normally from the louder effects, with bullets reverberating around your room and explosions rumbling the floor. There is also a less potent standard Dolby Digital 5.1 effort, which offers up a nice comparison to the superior PCM track.
ExtrasFirst up we get a full-length scene-specific Audio Commentary by the Director Edward Zwick, who is not unfamiliar with providing such commentaries on his productions. He makes for an intelligent narrator, offering plenty of technical titbits and insight into the making of this movie. His notes can prove a little technically dry, but the harrowing nature of the material does sometimes allow him to be a little more stimulated and it is certainly interesting to hear his thoughts on the political corruption that runs through the movie.
Focus Points is a collection of Making-Of Featurettes and Production Diaries. They are the non-interactive Blu-ray equivalent to the IME HD DVD alternative (and they are the only extras exclusive to the High Definition formats). Sure it is a shame that we still do not have the same functionality apparent on Blu-ray discs as on HD DVD, but since the material is all here (albeit presented in a different fashion), not all is lost. The short Featurettes are all generally a couple of minutes in length, often referencing the movie and relating to the material that we would have been able to cross-compare with had this been presented in its intended IME Picture-in-Picture form. Although there's nearly an hours' worth of material here, it does not really play as a proper Documentary and has to be tolerated in short burst fashion.
Blood on the Stone is pitched as “follow a diamond's path from the ground to the stone”. Possibly the biggest understatement I have encountered of late, this is one of those rare gems you discover amongst extras, a massive near-hour-long Documentary that tells the real life tale of a journalist and his own personal blood diamond story. With stills - often quite graphic - and a very cynical (although possibly realistic) slant on the corruption fuelling the diamond trade, it is only related to the main movie in terms of content and is the kind of Documentary you might come across on TV, a la Panorama. Well worth watching if you are interested in the facts and reality behind this political drama.
Becoming Archer is a short, fluffy profile on Leonardo DiCaprio, praising him for his acting skills and his performance here. Lasting less than ten minutes it is shallow stuff and, even though DiCaprio deserves praise for his last few roles, this is largely a waste of your time. Journalism on the Front Line has Jennifer Connelly discussing women journalists in warzones, with reference to her character in the movie. It might have been interesting, but for its all-too-brief five minute runtime. Instead it never really gets off the ground. Finally we get Inside the Siege of Freetown, which has the Director Edward Zwick dissecting one of the movie's pivotal sequences. Running at ten minutes, it is possibly the most interesting of the three short offerings, and has cast and crew contributions but, still, far too much final film footage for it to avoid being fluffy. Finally we get a Theatrical Trailer and a Music Video for Nas' “Shine On 'Em”.
VerdictBlood Diamond is a thoroughly engaging political war thriller, complete with spectacular battle sequences, compelling storytelling and powerful performances. It comes to us on Blu-ray a whole month before the HD DVD release, complete with decent video, superior audio and all the same extras as on HD DVD, albeit without quite as much interactivity. Fans of the movie should not hesitate in picking up this version and newcomers will not be disappointed with adding this powerful drama to their collection. Highly recommended.
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